Ambassador Robert F. Godec’s Remarks
at 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow Pre-Departure Reception
May 9, 2018
Distinguished guests; graduates; ladies and gentlemen; mabibi na mabwana. Hamjambo! Habari zenu? Mambo?
Thank you for joining us here tonight to celebrate the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows who are preparing to depart for a life-changing experience in the United States. To the new Fellows: Hongera! My wife Lori and I are delighted to welcome you.
We also welcome the Mandela Washington Fellows from previous years who have so many experiences to share from their own time in the United States and about all they have done since. I encourage you to connect with the 2018 cohort tonight so that you can pass along your wisdom – what you have learned on your journey.
The Mandela Washington Fellows program is – in my view — one of the best things we do at the Embassy. This year it will bring 700 young leaders from across the African continent to the United States for an intense opportunity to learn and grow. The competition and selection process is rigorous – I’m sure our Fellows can attest to that. This year we had more than 3,500 applications from Kenya, and chose just 42 finalists! We are also pleased to be joined by our MWF colleagues from South Sudan, which brings our cohort tonight to 44. That means you are the best and the brightest that your countries have to offer! You represent the future — you have the intelligence, creativity, drive, and energy that will make your countries great.
I look forward to following your experiences in the United States, and I know you will achieve a lot. But I also look forward to your return. I encourage you to bring home what you learn in the United States – both in and out of the formal classroom setting – and share it with your friends and community. I hope you will serve as an example through your actions and through your businesses, civil society organizations, or public sector agencies. I want you to spread your knowledge and help others realize their potential too.
And don’t forget that you are not only in the United States to learn but also to share. Share with your peers and with everyone you meet, who you are, and what your country is about. Tell them about the beauty, the energy, the magic of your countries. Become Ambassadors for Kenya, South Sudan, and all of Africa.
One final note: I am not trying to set up a competition, but…
I want to let those of you in the 2018 cohort know that you have some big shoes to fill. Some of those shoes are in this very room tonight! All of the Fellows are smart, focused, and achievement-oriented. But a few have gone above and beyond, and those individuals have received global recognition for their good work. You have probably had a chance to see them on the screens tonight. But I would like to highlight a couple of Fellows who have received accolades.
Nice Nailantei Leng’ete was selected by Time magazine as one of the 2018 “100 Most Influential People” in the world for her work to combat FGM-Female Genital Mutilation – among the Maasai people of Kenya. Nice not only rejected FGM for herself, but she has negotiated with village elders to institute alternate coming-of-age ceremonies for the better health of the girls themselves and of their communities. An estimated 15,000 girls around Kenya have Nice to thank for saving them from FGM and from child marriage.
Dr. Angela Gichaga, who is the CEO of Financing Alliance for Health, was selected as one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune magazine. Angela is tackling the daunting question of how African countries should finance healthcare for the poorest and most remote citizens. Her selection puts her in the company of Bill and Melinda Gates; President of France Emmanuel Macron; Oprah Winfrey; and, Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Impressively, not one, but two of the fellows from the 2017 cohort, Amani Katani and Caroline Odera, were named among the Top 100 Most Positively Inspiring African Youth of 2017 by Positive Youth’s Africa, a youth-founded and run organization that highlights youth of African descent who strive for the development of humanity. I would like to congratulate them both for this amazing accomplishment and well-deserved recognition of their inspiring work.
We are so very proud of all of the Mandela Washington Fellows. Working through your businesses, your civil society organizations, and you public agencies… you are building the future of Africa. You are making a better world for your families, your communities, and your countries.
To this year’s Fellows, I wish you all the best during your time in the United States. I am confident you will have much success representing Kenya and South Sudan at your YALI institutes and the capstone YALI Summit in Washington, DC. When you return, we will work with you as you put your ideas into action.
You are now a part of the extended U.S. Embassy family. We look forward to walking with you on your Mandela Washington Fellow journey.
Congratulations, again, to the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows!
Pamoja tusonge mbele. Hongera and Safari Njema!